Five players to watch during Tulane’s spring football practice _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS -- Tulane wide receiver Devon Breaux (8) makes a key reception in the second quarter of the Tulane-UL-Lafayette R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Saturday in the Mercedes Benz Superdome.


Tulane can’t win without better play at quarterback. It’s that simple. Lee looked like a future star in preseason practice a year ago and made some beautiful throws in a season-opening overtime loss at Tulsa, but he got worse as the year went along, finishing with 14 interceptions and only 12 touchdown passes. A shoulder injury that knocked him out for two weeks did not help, nor did injuries to seniors Xavier Rush and Justyn Shackleford that left Tulane with a young corps of receivers. Entering his second year as the Green Wave’s clear No. 1, Lee, a redshirt sophomore, needs to regain the confidence he exhibited early last season.


Incredibly, Breaux is the only one of Tulane’s four scholarship receivers in the spring who was not a true freshman in the fall. Unfortunately for him, the three young players all passed him in the rotation, so he needs to rebound in a big way. Expected to be a go-to-guy in 2014, Breaux had an awful opener against Tulsa and never recovered, finishing with seven catches for 55 yards and zero touchdowns. He is an excellent athlete with tremendous jumping ability, but time is running out on him as he enters his redshirt junior year. If he does not produce in the spring, he may never be a factor.


Franklin tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus last spring, and his absence hurt the defense, which never found a replacement who possessed his skill set. He had locked down a starting spot at nickel back, exhibiting the combo skills of a linebacker and defensive back that suit the position perfectly. If he proves he is 100 percent recovered, it will allow senior Darion Monroe to remain at safety full-time and make the other decisions in the secondary much easier. Coaches and teammates were raving about his potential before his injury.


The end spot opposite Royce LaFrance is the most gaping hole on Tulane’s defensive depth chart with the departure of Tyler Gilbert. No one played well on the second unit last fall, but Williams, then a true freshman, showed occasional promise. He started once and finished with 10 tackles. Either he or raw redshirt sophomore Ade Aruna (seven tackles, one sack) or true sophomore Quinlan Carroll (two tackles) has to improve dramatically or the Wave will be very weak at a key position.


The kicking game is usually an afterthought in the spring, but Tulane cannot afford to overlook it after the rough year DiRocco had as a freshman. He missed a chip shot that could have won the opener against Tulsa and never looked sure of himself, going 8 of 15 on field goals and missing two extra points. It was not a matter of freezing during games. He was just as inaccurate in practice, particularly in the first half of the year before improving slightly in the latter stages. If he can’t demonstrate reliability out to 40 yards in the spring, the Wave will have a huge problem on its hands.